New York Yankees: Tampa Bay Rays

NEW YORK -- In the wake of his team's second 2-1 loss in the space of four days, a loss that made the Yankees, officially, a mediocre team once again, Joe Girardi was reduced to philosophical waxings, professions of blind faith, and the one answer that no major league baseball manager -- especially one with a $200 million-plus roster -- should ever have to utter.

Asked why his offense, which was rebuilt at a cost of more than a quarter-billion dollars this winter but is performing worse than its makeshift predecessor of a year ago, continues to struggle, here is the best the manager of the New York Yankees could come up with: "I don't know."

There are many reasons, of course, none of which Girardi could bring himself to say publicly, and perhaps hasn't even been able to admit to himself in private moments.

Asked why he continued to believe that at some point, his offense will begin to produce the way it was expected to, Joe Girardi said, "These guys have proven track records."

But what he did not say, and what he refuses to confront, is the very real possibility that his lineup, built on past performances, has a track record that is too far in the past to be of any use anymore.

That is really the only logical explanation for the lack of hitting from a lineup that boasts names such as Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and yes, Derek Jeter.

[+] EnlargeBrett Gardner
AP Photo/Kathy WillensFrustration has begun to build in the Bronx, where the Yanks offense stalled again Tuesday.
Last year, the names were Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Travis Hafner, Jayson Nix, and yes, Robinson Cano, a scotch-tape-and-spit lineup if there ever was one. And after 82 games, that team was 43-39. This one is 41-41.

The only thing standing between the Yankees and total disaster is the fact that the AL East, once vaunted as the best in all of baseball, is this year a hotbed of mediocrity; despite this latest defeat, the Yankees' eighth in their last 10 games, they remain just 3 1/2 games out of first place, and no one in their right mind would consider them out of the wild-card hunt, or even the divisional race, with 80 games left to play.

But something has got to be done, and quick, or this illusion that the 2014 Yankees are contenders will crumble and blow away by the time July has turned to August.

Girardi dismissed the idea that his team, especially the hitters, were too old with a canned response: "I don't think you forget to hit in a year."

But the truth is, a year can make a world of difference for players in their mid-to-late 30s, which Beltran, Soriano, Teixeira and Brian Roberts all are, and especially in their 40s, a club that Jeter just joined along with Ichiro.

The Yankees spent a fortune on Ellsbury, McCann and Beltran, and only Ellsbury has come close to giving them value for dollars. Beltran's right elbow is likely hurting more than he lets on, and McCann, whether he wants to admit it or not, is finding that it takes more than a road map to go from Atlanta to the Bronx successfully.

But it's not just the new guys who are struggling; the team as a whole was hitting .249 with runners in scoring position -- and that was before Tuesday night's 1-for-9 finish with runners in scoring position -- and ranked in the bottom half of just about every offensive category, well below the league average in everything but batting average.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesDerek Jeter scored the Yankees' lone run in a 2-1 defeat.
The numbers say that with two outs and runners in scoring position, the Yankees are among the worst teams in the AL, hitting just .218. Individually, here are the worst offenders: Roberts (.148), Jeter (.161), Soriano (.182), Gardner (.192), Beltran and Ichiro (both at .200). When these guys come up in that situation, the numbers say they are bound to fail.

This is not the hitting coach's fault; Kevin Long works hard with his hitters every day in the cage and on the field, but it's like teaching your kids to drive -- at some point, they have to take the wheel and do it themselves. Long can't go to the plate and hit for them.

If you want to make the case that it's the GM's fault, fine, but it would serve no purpose to fire Brian Cashman for spending his owner's money on the wrong players this winter. That's a decision for Hal Steinbrenner to make in the offseason. Besides, would firing the GM today improve the Yankees' offense tomorrow? Hardly.

And someone has got to try to right this ship in the 30 days between now and the non-waiver trading deadline.

Tuesday night, the Yankees got runners to first and third with none out in the fourth on a leadoff double by Jeter and a single by Ellsbury on which Jeter had to hold up because the ball was lined right in front of him. The Yankees wound up scoring a tainted run when Ellsbury got picked off first, but the Rays botched the rundown, hitting Ellsbury with a throw that allowed Jeter to score.

But the next three hitters -- Teixeira, Beltran and Soriano -- made out on two flyouts and a strikeout. The Yankees had another threat in the sixth, with runners on first and second with one out after Jeter singled and Teixeira walked, but Beltran flied out and Soriano looked at a third strike.

They had one final chance in the ninth, when the erratic Grant Balfour walked two batters, but Yangervis Solarte, who has cooled drastically since his hot start in April, bounced out to first to end the game.

Afterward, Girardi talked about a lack of "situational hitting," but he eventually admitted, as he had last week with the starting pitching, that he really had no choice but to go to battle with the army he has, not the army he would like to have.

"These are the guys that we have, and these are the guys that have to get it done on a nightly basis," he said. "As I’ve said in the game, no one is going to feel sorry for you, and no one has a magic potion. You just have to go out and grind it out."

Then, when asked if he felt "helpless" watching his punchless offense, Girardi, most unwittingly, said perhaps the most meaningful thing he has said all season.

"I never feel helpless," he said. "That I don’t feel. There’s too many other things in life that can give you that feeling, so I don’t feel helpless."

When a manager starts invoking the "there's bigger things in life than baseball" clause with half a season to go, you know he's beginning to lose hope.

"I don’t think you ever doubt yourself, and you don’t doubt your teammates, you don’t doubt your coaching staff," Gardner said. "You believe in the guys we have in the room, believe in our approach and what we do. It’s only July 1, so it’s not like we’re out of things. I don’t think anyone is ready to give up on each other. It’s definitely frustrating at times; it’s disappointing. I know the fans are disappointed because they expect better -- and they have a right to expect better. Hopefully we can turn things around starting tomorrow."

But he, too, could offer no concrete answer except to fall back on past performances, and track records, none of which has done much to change the state of the Yankees offense so far.

"As I've said, it’s not just a couple of guys struggling, it’s a number of guys," Girardi said. "Maybe you mix the order, but we got our guys that are swinging the bat the best up the most and the other guys have to find a way to contribute, too."

In other words, right now, the guys he's got are the guys he's got. Joe Girardi doesn't know why they aren't hitting, and doesn't know how to make them hit.

All he can do is hope they do, and soon. And all he has to go on right now is blind faith, which right now hardly seems to be enough.
NEW YORK -- The biggest play in the New York Yankees' 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday was Wil Myers' three-run inside-the-park home run in the third inning off CC Sabathia.

But it shouldn't have been a home run.

It was a legitimate extra-base hit, for sure. Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury almost snagged it, but the ball just eluded his grasp and hit the top of the wall in right-center field. The ball then deflected off Ellsbury and rolled toward right field.

The runner on second base would have scored anyway, and the runner on first may have scored as well. But right-fielder Carlos Beltran was late in backing up Ellsbury and retrieving the ball, which allowed Myers -- who loafed to first base before seeing the ball drop and picking up the pace -- to come all the way around.

"I just got caught up watching the play," Beltran said, "and when I reacted the ball kind of went toward the right-field wall and I just couldn't get to it."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi goes out of his way to avoid criticizing his own players, but came about as close as he gets to doing so on Sunday.

When asked if Beltran was supposed to be in position to back up Ellsbury on that play, Girardi said, "We have to take care of that, yes."

"I don’t think [Beltran] anticipated that that was gonna happen, is what happened," Girardi said later. "He didn’t read what could possibly happen there."

Beltran admitted he could have done a better job on the play.

"Sometimes, as an outfielder, you kind of like watch the play a little bit and see what happens and react," Beltran said. "That play right there, the perfect thing for me would have been to react a little bit faster."

Unsung hero: A day after being called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Alfredo Aceves came on in relief of the ineffective Sabathia in the fourth inning, and finished the game.

Aceves threw 5 1/3 shutout innings, giving up just three hits (all singles), with five strikeouts and no walks. After allowing a leadoff single to Desmond Jennings in the top of the sixth, Aceves retired 12 batters in a row to finish the day.

It didn't help the Yankees earn a win Sunday, but it could pay major dividends this coming week. The team's bullpen desperately needed a break -- Girardi had to use eight different pitchers in Friday night's 14-inning loss, and needed two innings of relief in Saturday's win as well.

"He did a heck of a job today," Girardi said, of Aceves. "He saved our bullpen, and it’s a bullpen that needed some rest, and he did a great job."

For Aceves, it was his first major league appearance of the season, and first with the Yankees since May 8, 2010. The Yanks re-acquired the 31-year-old righty just before Opening Day, after he was cut by the Baltimore Orioles.

But after Aceves struck out James Loney to start the top of the fifth, Girardi and a team trainer visited the mound to check on the pitcher.

"He said he just felt something in his leg," Girardi said. "It seemed to get better as time went on. I considered pulling him, but he threw a few pitches and said he was OK, and we checked with him every inning.

"I don’t know what it means tonight and tomorrow, if we run a test on him or what to see what’s going on or how he feels right now. But he was able to pitch (through) whatever was going on."

Aceves himself said he was fine after the game.

"The doctors checked it out, and they said it’s OK. So it’ll be OK," Aceves said. "Really looking forward for the next game."
NEW YORK -- The Yankees will attempt to win this series before they take off on a one week road trip in Anaheim and Milwaukee.

Derek Jeter is back, while Brian McCann is not. Here is your Yankees' lineup for Sunday against Erik Bedard:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Jeter, SS
Carlos Beltran, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, DH
Kelly Johnson, 3B
Yangervis Solarte, 2B
Brett Gardner, LF
John Ryan Murphy, C

CC Sabathia, P

Notes: Peyton Manning is at the the game as a guest of Jeter's. Kieran Darcy will have a story about their friendship up soon. ... Brendan Ryan, who has been out all season with a spine injury, will play in a rehab Sunday and could be activated as soon as Monday night against the Angels. ... Joe Girardi said that Sabathia's stuff against Seattle was better than his numbers against Seattle his last time when he gave up four earned runs in five innings.

Dealin' Dean Anna mops up

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Dean Anna is a shortstop by trade and a ball player by nature, but he hadn't thrown a pitch, he figured, since he was an 11-year-old Little Leaguer back in Harvey, Ill.

So when New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi told him Saturday night that he was his eighth-inning guy, Anna wasn't quite sure what to think. Or to feel.

[+] EnlargeDean Anna
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDean Anna was forced to pitch Saturday night, which is not exactly how Joe Girardi drew it up.
Anna knew it wasn't an opportunity, or an honor, since the Yankees were in the midst of being crushed 16-1 by the Tampa Bay Rays -- although the score was a mere 14-1 when Anna got the call.

And when he left the mound, after a relatively quick, but not uneventful, inning, here was his self-assessment: "I thought I did all right. I thought I was going to hold them to the last two, but then a guy got a base hit. I don't really remember it anymore."

By the numbers, Anna struck out as many batters as Dellin Betances (zero), allowed one-quarter of the runs allowed (two) by starter Ivan Nova, got one swing-and-miss (on a 60 mph pitch to James Loney) and extended the misery of David DeJesus, who came to the plate zero for his past 22 and left 0-for-23 after popping out to the infield.

"Oh, nice," Anna said. "I guess I did my job."

But Anna knew the truth: "When you see me in there, it's not a good day for us."

This was a miserable day for the Yankees. Nova allowed eight runs, including four home runs, and left in the fifth inning with an elbow injury, the severity of which has yet to be determined. He was followed by Matt Daley, called up earlier in the day, then allowed six runs (although only four were earned), including a long home run to Wil Myers.

Betances wasn't charged with any runs but had a recurrence of the control problems that periodically plague him, issuing a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Hanigan. When Betances finally ended the seventh inning by striking out DeJesus, Girardi decided to save the remainder of his bullpen for Sunday's series finale, which will be started by emergency starter Vidal Nuno.

That's when Girardi approached Anna and told him he would be the first Yankees position player to take the mound since last May 15, when Girardi called upon another shortstop, Alberto Gonzalez, to get the final out of the ninth inning in a game the Yankees were losing 12-2 to the Seattle Mariners. Gonzalez obliged by getting Robert Andino to fly out to center field.

Girardi had specific instructions for Anna: "Just do not get hurt. Lob it in. I don't want to have to come out there and yell at you because you're throwing too hard. Just play catch." Anna followed the instructions to the letter. He threw 17 pitches, 14 of them for strikes.

"Someone told me I topped out at 72 [miles per hour]," he said, laughing. "I probably could have hit 85 or 86 if I aired it out."

After suffering the embarrassment of the swing-and-miss, Loney stroked a single to right. Myers then doubled to left, sending Loney to third. After getting Sean Rodriguez to pop out and Logan Forsythe to line out to left, Hanigan delivered the two-run single that drove Anna's ERA to 18.00, from which it will likely never retreat.

"When I do lessons back home, that's actually how I throw: just a nice little flick in there," said Anna, who works with young ball players at a baseball camp near Chicago in the offseason. "It was actually pretty easy throwing strikes and stuff like that, but it's not fun when I'm out there. Not fun at all."

Rapid Reaction: Rays 16, Yankees 1

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse than Fright-day Night at the Trop, along came Shudder-day Night.

In what was, statistically, the worst performance by a New York Yankees starter in a century, and maybe the worst all-around team performance in a decade, the Yankees got crushed 16-1 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

How bad was it? So bad that Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to turn to infielder Dean Anna to pitch the eighth inning.

And compared to the professional pitchers who preceded him, Anna wasn't all that bad. In fact, he was better than Matt Daley and a whole lot better than Ivan Nova.

The gory details:

No good: Nova had a nightmare of a game, allowing a career-high four home runs, including two to Ryan Hanigan, the No. 9 hitter in the Rays lineup.

Nova then left the game at an opportune moment -- two on, none out and Evan Longoria at the plate -- in the fifth inning with what was announced as "right elbow soreness." Two starts back, Nova allowed seven earned runs in 3⅔ innings against the Baltimore Orioles.

Historic performance: According to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats & Info, Nova is the only Yankees starter in the past 100 years to allow at least eight earned runs and four home runs in four innings or fewer.

Archenemy: The Yankees have now faced Rays starter Chris Archer four times, lost four times and scored a grand total of four earned runs in 28⅔ innings (1.35 ERA). On Saturday, Archer worked into the seventh inning, allowing just three hits (one an infield single) and one run.

Long gone: Who else but Longoria would hit the most impressive homer of all, a moon shot off a first-pitch curveball that nearly hit the top of the dome before landing on the furthest catwalk from home plate, way back in the left-field seats? Ben Zobrist was aboard, giving the Rays a 4-0 lead in the third inning. It gave Longoria the all-time Rays franchise lead, which, if you've seen him hit against the Yankees, you would have thought he already had.

The Daley Double: Wil Myers hit his second home run of the game, a three-run shot, off Daley, who was called up Friday night from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi left Daley in for mop-up duty, but after he allowed four more runs, the manager mercifully pulled him and brought in Dellin Betances with one out in the sixth.

What's next: The series finale on Sunday afternoon. Vidal Nuno (0-0, 14.54 ERA) gets the spot start for the Yankees, opposed by lefty Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50). First pitch is at 1:40 p.m.

First Pitch: Yanks-Rays role reversal

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
Suddenly and swiftly, the Yankees are the ones with the young pitching, while the Rays have question marks in their rotation.

The Yankees have had 25-year-olds Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda become two of the biggest stories of the early going in all of baseball.

The Rays have been hurt by injury after injury to their r, making their favorite status in the AL East a little tenuous.

They have watched as 24-year-old Matt Moore and 27-year-old Jeremy Hellickson have needed elbow surgery. Moore will be gone for the year. Meanwhile, 26-year-old Alex Cobb has a left oblique strain.

On Friday night, they are forced to throw 35-year-old journeyman Erik Bedard.

The Rays supposedly have plenty more young pitchers in the pipeline, but at the moment the Yankees have created some depth in the majors and possibly the minors. Besides Tanaka and Pineda, Ivan Nova is just 27.

Adam Warren is only 26. Warren looks like he could be a dependable setup man and, if given the chance, may be able to become a starter. Other than his disastrous one-start debut in 2012, he has been impressive now for a year-and-a-half.

Joining Warren in the pen is Dellin Betances. Betances, 26, has struck out 11 in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Though he doesn't always have complete control of his pitches, he is becoming a weapon.

David Phelps is a bit up-and-down, but he is only 27.

On the farm, the Yankees have some potential with Manny Banuelos, Jose Campos and Luis Severino.

As we have already seen this year, pitching depth is a fragile thing. But at the moment, there is a role reversal going on with the Yankees' young pitchers thriving and the Rays taking a step back.

On deck: Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86) takes on Bedard (0-0, 0.00) in Game 2 of this four-game series. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m.

Rapid Reaction: Rays 8, Yankees 3

September, 25, 2013
NEW YORK -- It ain't over 'til it's over, but, today, even Yogi would have to admit, it's over. Because it is.

The Yankees' hopes of sneaking into the second AL wild-card spot, on life support since Sunday's 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, came to its official, merciful end tonight in a second straight lifeless performance against the Tampa Bay Rays.

This one was the second half of the Yankees season in a nutshell: poor starting pitching, unreliable relief pitching and practically nonexistent hitting. On the bright side, Charlie Brown arrived at the ballpark safely and well in advance of the first pitch. And with the Cleveland Indians beating the Chicago White Sox -- with help from a home run by Nick Swisher -- it really didn't matter what the Yankees did, anyway.

Deep sixth: After two strong innings in relief of Phil Hughes, David Huff imploded in the sixth inning, allowing a three-run homer to Evan Longoria and a solo shot to David DeJesus to turn a 3-2 game into a 7-2 runaway. For Longoria, it was his eighth home run this season against the Yankees, more than 25 percent of his season's total of 30, and in just 18 games, which translates into 72 homers over the course of a season played solely against the Yankees. Not quite a Barry Bonds pace, but close enough.

Had his Phil: Girardi had a quick hook on Hughes -- yanking him with none out and the bases loaded in the third -- following a prodigiously bad call by third-base umpire Tim Timmons, who called Longoria safe at third even though Eduardo Nunez had clearly beaten him to the bag after snagging Delmon Young's grounder. But following a double by James Loney and a single by Longoria, Girardi had seen enough and brought in Huff. Hughes' final line as a Yankee: 2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB and 2 K's. How short was his leash? Fifty-one pitches. Hughes' final record? 4-14, 5.19 ERA. Heck of a way to head into free agency.

Could've been worse: Hughes got hit hard in the first inning but escaped with just one run when Alfonso Soriano ran down Young's drive to the wall in left for the last out of the inning. But before that, leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist drove Vernon Wells to the right-field fence for the first out, Wil Myers and Loney laced back-to-back doubles for the first run of the game and the normally sure-handed Brendan Ryan booted a routine grounder. So Hughes was lucky to squirm away down only 1-0.

High Nunie: Nunez, who handles David Price well -- he came in 7-for-25 lifetime against him -- crushed an 0-1 pitch into the left-field seats to lead off the third to (temporarily) cut Tampa's lead to 3-2. Price worked seven innings, allowed two runs on six hits -- two of them to Nunez, who also doubled leading off the Yanks' first.

Long balls: Longoria added a solo HR off Preston Claiborne leading off the ninth. His ninth homer of the season against the Yankees is the most by an opposing player since Jose Cruz Jr. in 2001.

More company for Lou: Robinson Cano's first-inning double off the left-field fence that drove in Nunez to tie the game at one was Cano's 40th double of the season. That gave him 40 or more doubles in a season for the seventh time to tie Lou Gehrig for the franchise record.

Andy's turn: It wasn't exactly Mariano Rivera Day, but the Yankees honored Andy Pettitte -- before a sparse crowd -- at home plate before the first pitch. Pettitte, who made his last Yankee Stadium start on Sunday against the Giants, was given a base from that game, which the Yankees and Pettitte lost 2-1.

Good grief: To the relief of thousands, including members of the Yankees front office, tonight's Charlie Brown bobblehead giveaway went off a lot smoother than Tuesday's Rivera fiasco. Two skids of cartons containing bobbleheads were parked inside the main entrance of the Stadium when the press gate opened at 2 p.m.

What's next: The home season finale pits Ivan Nova (9-5, 3.13 ERA) against RHP Alex Cobb (10-3, 2.90). First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. It's also Mo's last home game as a Yankee. Worth tuning in for. Maybe Girardi will give him an inning in center field.

Wild (card) atmosphere for Yanks, Rays

August, 25, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It may have been a matchup of a first-place team and one fighting for its postseason life, but everything about Sunday's game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays felt like a playoff game.

There was a pitcher's duel between the starters, Ivan Nova and Alex Cobb; some terrific play in the field, notably by Mark Reynolds at third for the Yankees and Ben Zobrist at second for the Rays. It was heavy on tension, low on scoring, and the teams needed 11 innings and nearly four hours to settle it.

And just to add to the October feel, Alex Rodriguez started the day on the bench.

What more could you ask?

If the Yankees can make up 3 1/2 games over the final 32 games of the season, they will squeak into the play-in game between the two wild-card teams, and the odds are better than good that their opponent would be the Rays, who are likely to end up either with the AL East title, or the first wild-card spot.

In that case, look out.

[+] EnlargeAlfonso Soriano
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackAlfonso Soriano scored the game-winning run on Curtis Granderson's sac fly in the 11th.
The Yankees have a terrible time beating the Rays and a worse time beating them at the Trop, but a matchup between the Joes, Girardi and Maddon, usually makes for some good managerial shenanigans.

On this day, Girardi got the better of it, stealing a run, and a win, in the 11th inning by choosing to send Alfonso Soriano from second to third on a day the catchers for both teams seemed able to shoot the eyeballs out of a housefly.

But Soriano, once one of the most formidable base stealers in the game, was able to sneak in ahead of Jose Molina's throw, despite not getting a great jump, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet away with one out, where it was easy to get him home on a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly.

Girardi admitted it was a risky call, and also that he was a little worried when Soriano, who had doubled into the left-field corner, broke slowly from second on Jamey Wright's first pitch to Granderson.

"I didn't think it was great," Girardi said of Soriano's jump. "I kinda went, 'Uh-oh.' But he’s a base stealer, he doesn't have fear, and he has an idea of what he’s doing."

But the manager made it clear that Soriano wasn't doing anything without his approval, and in fact, encouragement. "I turned him loose," Girardi said. "I'm giving him the green light because I want him to get to third. We're taking a chance, yeah, but we're trying to make it easier on Grandy."

That inning capped a game of managerial cat-and-mouse that began after both starters had left the game. Girardi had to use his eighth-inning man, David Robertson, for two innings for the first time since 2011 because the game was still tied in the ninth and there was no point going to Mariano Rivera. Maddon used his own closer, Fernando Rodney, in the top of the ninth, hoping to win it in the bottom of the inning, but was thwarted when Robertson threw a 1-2-3 inning at the Rays.

But Girardi's biggest gamble, outside of sending Soriano, was cobbling together a scoreless 10th inning out of Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan, two of the more erratic performers in the Yankees' bullpen. Chamberlain lasted two hitters, striking out Yunel Escobar but inexplicably walking the weak-hitting Jose Molina on a 3-2 slider rather than challenging him with a fastball that was clocking in at 96 mph.

Girardi then went to Logan to face the left-handed hitting David DeJesus. Maddon countered with the right-handed hitting Jose Lobaton. Logan solved the problem by getting Lobaton to rap one right at Mark Reynolds -- who had an outstanding day at third base -- to start an inning-ending double play, the fourth one coaxed by Yankees pitching in the game.

Girardi acknowledged that he was trying to send a message to the speedy, shift-happy Rays by borrowing a page from Maddon's own hefty strategy binder. "You get into these tight games, you’re going to have to do some things," Girardi said. "We tried a few things, and it worked out."

Of course, none of it would have been possible without Robinson Cano's 24th home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth that tied the game at 1, nor Cano's RBI double that scored Ichiro to give the Yankees a short-lived 2-1 lead, although Cano did manage to get himself thrown out by a good 10 yards trying to go from second to third.

"Just a bad read on his part," Girardi said.

The Yankees also survived a white-hot Evan Longoria, who completed a 6-for-13, three-home run, five-RBI weekend with a monstrous solo homer to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth.

Even A-Rod got into the act, giving the sellout crowd of 34,078 two reasons to boo -- first for his appearance as a pinch-hitter for Chris Stewart in the 10th inning, the second for his bloop single into center.

Girardi agreed that the game had a playoff vibe to it, and admitted that a sweep here would have struck a potentially devastating blow to his team's chances to play at least one game in October.

"Each day that ticks off, we got to make up more ground, and this is obviously one of the teams we’re chasing and this place has been a tough place for us to win," Girardi said. "But this group has been resilient. I've said it all year long. People have wrote us off a few times, and they find a way to bounce back, and that’s what we did today."

Rapid Reaction: Rays 4, Yankees 2

August, 24, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Yankees come to Tropicana Field. CC Sabathia faces David Price.

Yankees lose at Tropicana Field. Sabathia loses to Price.

How predictable.

On a night when the Yankees desperately needed an ace-like performance from Sabathia, they got five innings of excellence and one of catastrophic failure, which was just enough to insure that the above scenario, which plays out on an annual basis here, played out again tonight.

More importantly, with their 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays tonight, the Yankees slip to seven games back in the AL wild-card race (4½ out of the second wild-card spot), another game comes off the rapidly dwindling schedule, and they now sit perilously close to being swept in a series they desperately needed to win.

CC = Close (but no) Cigar: Sabathia turned in one of his better lines of the season, allowing six hits and three runs in 6⅓ innings and striking out seven. But, once again, Sabathia was unable to hold a lead and incapable of delivering a shutdown inning. The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the fifth, but Sabathia gave it back, with interest, an inning later. Sabathia is now 4-12 against the Rays since becoming a Yankee, 3-8 at the Trop and 1-6 in head-to-head matchups with Price.

Early speed: Sabathia showed some of his highest gun readings of the season, hitting 95 mph on a third strike to Sean Rodriguez in the second inning. Through the first three innings, the Rays managed just two baserunners -- a double by Evan Longoria that shot past Alex Rodriguez and up the line in left in the first and a two-out walk to Desmond Jennings in the third. In fact, Sabathia did not allow a ball to be hit to the outfield until Sam Fuld's bloop single to left leading off the sixth inning.

Deep-sixed: Fuld's single started a disastrous sixth inning for CC, who walked Jennings, the next batter, and went to 3-1 on Ben Zobrist when, suddenly, a ball got loose from the Yankees bullpen and rolled onto the field, causing the umpires to call time as Sabathia was about to release the pitch. Zobrist lined the next delivery between Alfonso Soriano and Curtis Granderson to score both runners and tie the game at two. Longoria then followed with a line single to left, scoring Zobrist to give the Rays a 3-2 lead. CC got two big strikeouts but Yunel Escobar reached on an infield hit to give the Rays two on with two out. The Yankees were spared further damage when James Loney lined out to Mark Reynolds at first.

Evan Long ball: Longoria dropped a cherry on the sundae in the eighth, blasting a 1-2 pitch from Preston Claiborne over the center-field fence to add an insurance run.

Priced out: The Yankees squeezed two runs off Price in the fourth, both courtesy of Austin Romine, after loading the bases on singles by A-Rod, Vernon Wells and Reynolds. Romine worked out a nine-pitch walk, fouling off four straight 3-2 pitches, to force in the first run, and his heady baserunning on Ichiro's groundout to second -- hesitating between first and second so that Zobrist could not tag him out -- allowed the second run to score from third.

Not so fast: Soriano was so sure he had hit a home run off Price in the sixth, he went into the whole routine -- flipping the bat away, skipping his way from home to first -- only to see Rodriguez make an excellent leaping catch at the wall in left.

What's next: Ivan Nova (7-4, 3.17 ERA) tries to avert the sweep against RHP Alex Cobb (8-2, 2.85) in the series finale. The first pitch is at 1:40 p.m.
ST. PETERSBURG -- The news on Brett Gardner was good -- he arrived in the Yankees clubhouse without a cast on his right hand after being hit by a Chris Archer pitch Friday night, but his X-ray came back negative. So he's OK to play, only not against David Price.

"Every night that we face a lefty, one of our lefties is going to have to sit," manager Joe Girardi said. "This has nothing to do with last night."

What it has to do with is Gardner's career record against Price -- 2-for-14 (.143) with three strikeouts -- as opposed to Curtis Granderson's, who, in spite of hitting only .196 against Price, has hit four home runs off him. Girardi also cited some "good at-bats" by Ichiro Suzuki against Price, although he has just three at-bats against him with one hit.


Lyle Overbay, who missed last night's game with flu-like symptoms, didn't look too well before this one, either, and Girardi said he was probably not available in any capacity tonight. "He's still having some issues," Girardi said. "He gets a little bit dizzy, and he’s nauseated, so I'm not sure about that one."

• A discussion of CC Sabathia's woes this season came up before the game, and it was suggested to Girardi that maybe his erstwhile ace, who has pitched effectively at more than 300 pounds for most of his career, is now too thin. Sabathia has shed at least 25 pounds this season and kept it off, but the lost poundage seems to coincide with a loss of fastball velocity.

"I don't think so," Girardi said. "It’s not like he's 210 pounds. He's still a big man. He's still strong. I think he's in tremendous shape."

Still, Girardi could offer no concrete reason for Sabathia's struggles -- he is 11-10 with a 4.83 ERA, leads the team with a career-high 27 home runs allowed and has given up more than 10 hits in a game three times this season -- other than to say, "He's had a tough year. There's a lot of things you could say. Could it be this? Could it be that? I think that's just speculation. The bottom line is, his fastball has cut more and his changeup has cut more, and that's what's led to the problems."

Sabathia has always had trouble with the Rays -- he is 11-12 with a 3.76 ERA against them in 33 career starts -- and especially at Tropicana Field, where his record is 3-7 and his ERA 4.39. In fact, since becoming a Yankee, Sabathia has won just four of 22 starts against Tampa Bay and lost 11 times.

• Price is 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA lifetime against the Yankees, but the Yankees beat him here at the Trop on April 23, 4-3, when closer Fernando Rodney blew a save on a two-run single by Ichiro. In nine career meetings with Sabathia, Price is 4-2 and the Rays have won six of those starts.

Pregame notes: 'O Canada' for Jeter?

August, 23, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Derek Jeter is playing a game for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders tonight, and Joe Girardi said he is also "scheduled" to play for the Yankees' AAA affiliate on Saturday, so it appears highly unlikely the Yankees' captain will be activated for any of this weekend's crucial three games against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"The fact is we need him to play tonight, feel good and be able to bounce back the next day," Girardi said. "If that all goes well, maybe we see him really shortly after that."


Since Scranton is playing at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night, it would seem to preclude a Jeter sighting on Sunday, since the Yankees-Rays finale is at 1:40 p.m. and it would appear to be foolish to fly a 39-year-old shortstop overnight to play a day game. Plus, by the manager's own admission, Jeter has yet to run at 100 percent. But Girardi hinted that Jeter could be with the club when it opens a three-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Monday night.

Asked if Jeter had brought his passport with him to Scranton, Girardi smiled and said, "I'm sure he did.''

Here are few more notes from St. Pete:
  • Lyle Overbay was a late scratch with what the manager described as flu-like symptoms and was replaced at first base by Mark Reynolds.
  • While Girardi said Eduardo Nunez is "still guarding" his sore right hamstring, he is in the lineup batting eighth and playing shortstop against Chris Archer.
  • The Rays, who had a day off yesterday, are 1-10 following an off-day and have lost their last eight in a row following a day off. The Yankees, who are 5-14 at Tropicana Field since 2011, have split the six games played here so far this season.
  • Tonight's starter, Hiroki Kuroda, has made just three career starts against the Rays, going 2-1 with a 6.11 ERA, his highest career ERA against any opposing team. He did beat the Rays here last September 5, allowing four earned runs in six innings of a 6-4 Yankees win.
  • Rays starter Archer threw a two-hit, 1-0 shutout against the Yankees on July 27 in the Bronx. He became the first Rays pitcher to shut out the Yankees in the 268th game played between the two divisional rivals.

Soriano's heroics make Hal seem wise

July, 28, 2013
NEW YORK -- Alfonso Soriano gave Hal Steinbrenner a reason to smile on Sunday.

Two days after the New York Yankees' owner pushed GM Brian Cashman into dealing for Soriano, the veteran outfielder delivered a walk-off single in the a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Soriano singled home Brett Gardner in the ninth as part of a 4-for-5 day with three RBIs and two runs scored.

[+] EnlargeAlfonso Soriano
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsAlfonso Soriano was the center of attention after his game-winning hit.
"Very exciting moment," said Soriano, who was the Yankees' starting second baseman from 2000-03. "To again [be] back to the Yankees and have a game-winning hit, it's a very special moment."

The Yankees acquired Soriano on Friday from the Chicago Cubs for Class A pitcher Corey Black in an attempt to upgrade their right-handed power. While Cashman did not oppose acquiring Soriano, he told that he didn't want to surrender Black in the deal.

After a pair of hitless games to start his second stint with New York, Soriano broke out Sunday. He singled and scored in the first inning, and swatted a two-run shot off Matt Moore in the third to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Soriano's blast marked just the second homer by a Yankees right-handed hitter since June 25.

In the ninth, with two men on with one out, Soriano singled up the middle against lefty reliever Jake McGee to score Gardner. The win prevented a three-game sweep and gave Soriano his 13th career walk-off hit and his fourth as a member of the Yankees.

"It was great," Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte said. "In talking with him yesterday, I asked him how he was doing, if he was relaxed. He was just like, 'I need to get my first hit.' ... He got that first hit and then he got three more after that. It was just great to see."

Over his first three days with the Yankees, Soriano has referred to the familiarity he has with the team due to the friendships he has with former teammates like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

As Sunday's game unfolded -- with Soriano driving in Jeter with his home run, Rivera pitching a perfect ninth inning and Soriano coming though to win the game -- it felt like the clock had been turned back 10 years in the Bronx.

"I see Mariano pitching and Jeter hitting and me, it feels like old times in the present," Soriano said. "We play together for three years and now after 10 years we come back and play together. It's very good.

"It makes me feel special to play with those guys because those guys are future Hall of Famers."

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 6, Rays 5

July, 28, 2013

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter needed just one pitch to announce his return.

In his first game back since suffering a Grade 1 quad strain, and just his second game of the season, Jeter hit a homer on the first pitch he saw. Alfonso Soriano singled in the game-winning run in the ninth as the New York Yankees avoided a sweep with a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Ichiro Suzuki was 4-for-4 for the Yankees, who are now 2-0 when Jeter plays.

JETER'S BACK: Jeter deposited the first pitch he saw into the right-field seats to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead, and he singled and scored in the third. He provided an instant boost to an offense that had been shut out the previous day.

Jeter also appeared to take the team's advice to ease up on the base paths. He appeared to take a little something off his trot when he hit a pair of routine grounders in the fourth and seventh. Jeter finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

THE HERO: Soriano singled home Brett Gardner to give the Yankees the walk-off win. Earlier in the game, in a scene straight out of 2003, Soriano homered to drive in Jeter in the third inning. It marked Soriano's first homer since a Friday trade brought him back to the Yankees, and his 18th on the season.

Soriano singled in the first inning, ending an 0-for-8 start to his second stint as a Yankee. Soriano finished 4-for-5 on Sunday with three RBIs and two runs scored.

BOOS FOR HUGHES: Phil Hughes, who could be traded before Wednesday's deadline, gave up a pair of home runs, both to rookie sensation Wil Myers, and labored through a four-inning, 92-pitch outing. He gave up five runs on nine hits and couldn't hold leads of 3-0 and 5-4. He's 4-9 on the season.

SNAPPING THE STREAK: Until Jeter's blast, the Yankees hadn't received a homer from a right-handed hitter since June 25. The team has been woeful hitting for power from the right side, but they got two righty homers on Sunday.

AN ERUPTION: The Yankees plated three runs in the first inning, which is more than the total amount of hits they had in Saturday's 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay. The Yankees collected eight hits and five runs in five innings against All-Star Matt Moore, who entered the game 14-3.

UP NEXT: The Yankees have an off day before embarking on an eight-game road trip that begins in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Andy Pettitte (7-8, 4.39 ERA) will face Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.49) at 10:10 p.m. on Tuesday.

Jeter homers on first pitch since returning

July, 28, 2013
NEW YORK -- The Captain has a flair for the dramatic, doesn't he?

In his first at-bat since returning from a strained quadriceps injury, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter belted the first pitch he saw from Tampa Bays left-hander Matt Moore into the right-center field stands for his first home run of the season.

Jeter, who got a standing ovation from the Stadium crowd when he was announced, went out for a curtain call after rounding the bases. It was his first home run since Sept. 9, 2012, in Baltimore.

Prior to Jeter's homer, the Yankees had gone 28 games without a home run from a right-handed batter.

The other five shortstops who have started for the Yankees this season -- Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix, Alberto Gonzalez, Luis Cruz and Reid Brignac -- have combined for just two homers.

Jeter was making his first start of the season at short in the team's 105th game. Jeter has missed 103 games due to a twice-fractured ankle, calf strain and quad strain.

Sunday's Yankees lineup: Jeter returns

July, 28, 2013
NEW YORK -- Shortstop Derek Jeter returns to the lineup Sunday against the Rays, and will bat second and play shortstop. It's Jeter's second game of the season.

David Adams also gets the start at first base.

Brett Gardner, cf
Derek Jeter, ss
Robinson Cano, 2b
Alfonso Soriano, lf
Vernon Wells, dh
Ichiro Suzuki, rf
Brent Lillibridge, 3b
David Adams, 1b
Chris Stewart, c

Phil Hughes, rhp



Masahiro Tanaka
12 2.51 135 129
BAB. Gardner .283
HRM. Teixeira 18
RBIM. Teixeira 50
RB. Gardner 67
OPSB. Gardner .812
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135